Human rights issues in Madagascar
Full index of Country Studies-Madagascar
By developing country standards, Madagascar has a moderately good human rights record. However, numerous human rights violations, largely committed during the Ratsiraka regime, have caused concern among international humanitarian agencies. In the late 1970s, the government enacted a law concerning Information against X for Plotting and Attack State Security under which anyone can be arrested without warrant and held indefinitely without trial. The law also enables the security forces to arrest, search, or seize property. Under the French penal code, arrest is limited to forty-eight hours, but in Madagascar the arrest time is extended to fifteen days and is renewable indefinitely. The authorities never release information about the status of the detainees who often are real or suspected opponents of Ratsiraka. Many individuals in custody are beaten, tortured, or deprived of medical care.
In the 1990s, Madagascar's human rights record became more controversial. During the prodemocracy unrest of the early 1990s, the Malagasy government committed excesses against some opposition figures. In July 1991, for example, government troops abducted and briefly detained four Forces Vives leaders who had been nominated as provisional government ministers; it then tried to occupy their ministerial offices. On August 10, 1991, Presidential Guard forces threw grenades and fired on a crowd of some 300,000 people marching on the President's Palace to call for Ratsiraka's resignation. At least thirty demonstrators were killed and 200 wounded. On October 23, 1991, security forces killed at least twelve people and wounded about seventy during a prodemocracy demonstration in the capital.
In 1992 government violence continued to claim victims throughout the country. On March 31, 1992, the authorities killed eight and wounded thirty-one people when hundreds of proRatsiraka demonstrators tried to force their way into the National Forum's debate on a new constitution. In October 1992, government troops killed eight people during a clash with a proRatsiraka group that was trying to close the Antsiranana airport.
Apart from these and numerous similar incidents, Madagascar has taken some steps to improve its human rights record. In December 1990, the government abolished press censorship; by mid1991 , the state-owned Malagasy Radio-Television allowed opposition figures to appear on a weekly discussion program. The DGIDIE director, a former judge appointed in mid-1990, worked to prevent excesses against prisoners held in custody. However, legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention are not always followed, especially in rural areas. Most Western observers maintain that there probably will be further improvements in Madagascar's human rights record as a result of the country's commitment to democratization.
Data as of August 1994
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